The Oracle in The Matrix had a lot of little gems that she liked to deliver with an interesting combination of didactic aplomb and relative indifference. And so she said: “Everything that has a beginning has an end.” It seems logical enough, and to be frank, anyone who has entertained the hope that things might not ever end has certainly only found disappointment, disillusionment and inevitably disproof… at the end. It is with these thoughts in mind that I have been following with some interest the developments in Geneva with regard to the Large Hadron Collider.
The LHC is an amazing machine built with the intention of simulating the Big Bang conditions. All jokes aside, this is an interesting goal. Lot of heat, lots of energy, lots of dark matter… and then boom – erm, rather – BANG. Are we sure this is what we want to do? Of course, the road to Big Banging has not been without it’s obstacles – like after eight years of construction bringing the machine to fruition, it kind of blew up when they flicked the “On” switch. £24 million later, they got it up and running again. Then this month: work on the machine was again interrupted when a short circuit took out an electrical substation. The incident was blamed on a piece of bread dropped by a passing bird. Let that be a warning to all of you who are serving birds toast. [Of course it does make me wonder what kind of bird we are talking about, you know, it always is ‘a simple question of weight ratios!’] But now… Eureka! They have done it, ar at least sort of. They have “managed to smash proton beams together for the first time” causing “scientists [to] rejoice!” How nice; rejoicing just in time for the holidays.
The part I have been thinking about is the relationship of beginnings and ends. You see, if the aim of the project is to recreate the Big Bang – spilling out “energy and matter at vast speeds that eventually became stars – including our sun – planets and then life itself” it seems like there might be some stuff to clean up afterward. Especially as they endeavor to explore dark matter, antimatter and supersymmetry. So then a beginning = an ending. Not sure I am ready. Not that one ever really is… But it makes me consider the merits of the Steady State Theory. This is the antithesis of the Big Bang Theory. It has mostly been debunked, and as it was inspired by a 1945 Orson Welles film, Dead of Night, I am not sure this debunking is undeserved. I mean, scientist I am not, but I am sort of prejudiced towards slightly more sophisticated reasoning than film noir. In a (non-scientific) nutshell, the Big Bang is spontaneous, crazy, chaotic, combustible creation, while the Steady State is a nice, evenly paced, semi-static addition to the existing universe, like expanding sameness. The Steady State purports that with regard ot the universe, there is no beginning and no end. It is the universe’s version of the Tortoise and the Hare.
I think that science aside, one’s personal predilection for one of these theories over the other might say a lot about innate personality characteristics. Are you Big Bangin’ or a Steady State? Slow and steady or wild and crazy? Spontaneous or deliberate? Apocalyptic over never-ending?
If reason dictates that what has a beginning would logically have an ending, I suppose faith dictates that nothing ever really ends. In some ways both sentiments are supported by the recent discovery of Planet GJ1214b. If we wreck this planet (through inadvertant or intentional activities) we can simply go find another one and carry on. Just like the Watchmen’s Dr. Manhattan says after vaporizing Rorschach: “Nothing ever ends,” and then leaves Earth for a different galaxy.
Mickey: The whole world’s comin’ to an end, Mal!
Mallory: I see angels, Mickey. They’re comin’ down for us from heaven. And I see you ridin’ a big red horse, and you’re driving them horses, whippin’ ’em, and they’re spitting and frothing all ‘long the mouth, and they’re coming right at us. And I see the future, and there’s no death, ’cause you and I, we’re angels…
Mickey: I love you, Mal.
Mallory: I know you do baby, and I’ve loved you since the day we met.